MOAB — A 17-year-old charged as an adult with murdering his mother's boyfriend was ordered Monday to spend the next four years in a juvenile commitment facility.
Though Brody Blu Kruckenberg was originally charged with murder in the adult court system, Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said a number of factors led him to move the case to juvenile court. He cited, among other things, the boy's young age at the time of the crime, head injuries that had impacted his cognitive skills — and his dislike of the victim and the influence of other adults who pressured him to harm the man.
Gregorio Campos, the boyfriend of Kruckenberg's mother, had given the teen cocaine and methamphetamine and was grooming him to sell those drugs, Fitzgerald said.
Both Kruckenberg and his friend Charles Anthony "Tony" Nelson were charged as adults with murder, a first-degree felony, and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, in Campos' death. But reduced charges were filed last week against both teens in juvenile court and the adult charges were dismissed on Monday.
The same day, Kruckenberg pleaded guilty to manslaughter and obstruction of justice, both second-degree felonies, and was ordered to be held in secure confinement until he turns 21. Nelson pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, in juvenile court Monday but was not sentenced pending an assessment.
An informant had pointed investigators to Nelson, who was 16 years old at the time, because Nelson "told a friend he had killed someone," a Grand County Jail report states. But Fitzgerald said the evidence later showed that Nelson was not involved in shooting Campos.
"Investigators were careful and meticulous and didn’t just run with the obvious path," he said. "We had somebody charged with murder who wasn’t culpable for that. When you're initially putting the case together you go with the best evidence."
When investigators interviewed Nelson, he told them that Kruckenberg, who was also 16 at the time, called him on March 25 and informed him that Campos was asleep in his mother's bed. Campos and Kruckenberg's mother, Corina Dawn Yardley, 44, were dating at the time.
Kruckenberg invited Nelson over and Nelson told detectives Kruckenberg suggested that they kill Campos, but wouldn't shoot the man himself, the report states. "Tony said it was not his deal, but was talked into doing it by his friend," detectives wrote.
Campos was shot three times in the head. Kruckenberg fired the shots, according to Fitzgerald.
"Once we had full confessions, we decided we would put (the case) back into juvenile court not only for the full confessions, but because it has more flexibility with rehabilitating these boys," Fitzgerald said.
The prosecutor said there are three or four adults who are still under investigation for their involvement in influencing Kruckenberg and in helping and directing him and Nelson to conceal and dump Campos' body. Those adults may have been angry with Campos for selling them some bad drugs that made them sick, he said.
The teens used Yardley's truck to drive Campos to the banks of the Colorado River, then tied his body to a metal bumper and threw it in the water, a report states.
While surveillance video shows Nelson and Kruckenberg buying rope and Nelson did help in eliminating some evidence, Fitzgerald said the teenager wasn't actually there when Campos' body was dropped in the river. Still, Nelson had helped Kruckenberg scout out potential locations. These actions led to the obstruction charge.
Fitzgerald said the change in Nelson's charges serves as a reminder that people are innocent until they are proven guilty. Investigators already had a suspect who had told people he had killed someone and knew where the body was, but that didn't stop their efforts.
"They could have just gone in that direction and stuck with it and maybe even convicted him with all the circumstantial evidence," Fitzgerald said. "It's good the investigators kept an open mind and didn’t jump to conclusions."
Yardley pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing justice earlier this month and was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail.